Should an Acoustic Guitar Saddle Lean Forward?

Should an acoustic guitar saddle lean forward? No, it shouldn’t. Let’s look at the causes of, problems with, and how to fix loose guitar saddles that lean forward.

Causes

The most common cause is that your guitar has a too thin saddle installed. This may have happened at the factory, or from a later saddle installation. A somewhat common issue is that a guitar has a one-eighth inch thick saddle slot, however, a three millimeter thick saddle was installed. To the naked eye, one-eighth inch and three millimeters may seem the same. However, one-eighth inch translates to 3.2 mm. This may seem minimal, but is enough to cause a forward saddle lean.

Another possible cause is that your guitar bridge slot is slightly wider than the factory specification. This could have occurred from humidity, or lack thereof, which can produce a slight change in saddle slot thickness. Another possibility is that someone slightly widened the saddle slot at some point. If you have a slightly thicker than normal saddle slot you many need to get a custom saddle that is a bit thicker. 

Close up view of an acoustic guitar bridge slot
Your Saddle Slot Thickness Can Subtly Shift with Humidity Changes

Problems with Forward-Leaning Saddles

Poor Tone

The most noticeable problem is poor tone. When a saddle leans forward, the bottom does not make good contact with the bridge, which results in poor string energy transmission to the guitar top, and poor tone.

Intonation Problems

The second most noticeable problem is intonation. The forward lean will result in a slightly shorter string length for all your strings. This, in turn, can result in many, if not all, of your strings being slightly flat.

How to Fix a Forward-Leaning Guitar Saddle

Temporary Fix

You can temporarily fix a forward leaning saddle by inserting a side shim, such as a piece of paper or cardboard. This might help with intonation, and might improve the tone a bit since the fit is better, but this should be seen as a temporary measure only. Having paper or cardboard on the saddle side will produce poor string energy transmission versus a solid saddle, and result in reduced tone.

Permanent Fix

For most guitars, the best permanent fix is a new saddle of the appropriate size. You can check with the guitar manufacturer to determine what saddle size was originally used. However, we also advise measure your saddle’s slot to ensure proper fit. We advise using a digital caliper for measurement. Once you have the specs, visit our Acoustic Guitar Saddle Size Chart for various saddle sizes, or contact us.

If there’s a problem with the bridge and/or bridge slot, then you need a more than just a saddle replacement. We advise taking your guitar to a professional guitar technician for both diagnosis of the problem and the actual repair.

Up Next: Fix an Acoustic Guitar Saddle That’s Too Low